One of the things I’ve discovered since becoming a mother for the second time is that it’s more healthy for me, mentally and physically, to do nothing on days that I’m just too tired. That’s something I would never have been able to say after DD was born when getting my fitness back was incredibly important to me.
It wasn’t only losing the baby weight that bothered me then. That was important, but also I was keen to regain my strength and fitness so I could get out there and keep up with my friends. I’d spent 9 months watching them all go from strength-to-strength and could hardly wait to get back out there again! I felt left out with bells on! This was made worse because the year before I got pregnant with DD I was the fittest I think I’d ever been. Being pregnant and then new mummy to DD put the brakes on that for me but no such barrier for my friends. Most difficult of all to swallow were the achievements of my team mates. Four of us from the mountain bike club had ridden an all-girl team in the 24-hour enduro (Sleepless in the Saddle) and we’re chuffed to bits that we’d podiumed (3rd place – not bad for our first race.)
We’d been fairly inseparable since, spending at least one day a week out on a ride together and really getting into our road riding, all riding at a fairly similar level and loving it. That same year I’d ridden Mountain Mayhem in the mud and loved it and had also completed my first century ride on the road. I was getting in 100 sometimes 200 miles or more a week, combining both on and off road, and with all this I was riding stronger and harder on my mountain bike than ever. Clearing Jacob’s Ladder on the Five on a day out in the Peaks was a highlight. I was buzzing on the bike!
One baby later I could barely make it to the shops and back. I had no time to ride with friends and couldn’t have kept up with them anyway as they were by now into riding audaxes, regularly bashing out 200 kms, and riding TT’s with the new clubs they’d joined. I saw from Strava that two of them had ridden past my house on their mountain bikes and not popped in to say hi!! I cried like the baby I held in my arms when I saw that. Why did they not come to see me!? I missed them all so much. I had other friends, yes, but these were my team mates – it was different somehow. It took a while to get past that and I literally had to allow myself to grieve for the old me and not so much my friends as people but the relationship I had with them.
So why am I telling you all this?
As friends, we’re connected again now, which is lovely, but now I look back and see that the time away from everyone gave gave me an opportunity, some space, to find a more balanced approach that was less all consuming. In the middle of it all there was always a ride, always somewhere to go, somewhere to be, someone to beat, whether that was beating my best or chasing the tail of a mate. It was while trying to get my fitness back in acceptance of only having short bursts of time available that I discovered kettle bells and started strength training. I kept using those throughout my second pregnancy (until my pelvis gave up on me) and managed a few months of post-natal recovery afterwards. But then I just stopped. My baby grew. We were moving house, which involved decluttering, packing, and relocating to antoher country. My baby continued to grow, and to crawl, and all the while my older baby stopped being a baby and became a little girl. I had no time even to think about riding my bike and, living in a tiny one-bedroom house, there was nowhere safe that I could swing that bell even if I’d wanted to.
The old me – the post baby #1 me – would have been in bits about this lack of activity. I’d have been freaking out about lost hours, lost fitness, and how I’ll never recover. But this version of me hasn’t batted an eye.
Regarding my general fitness, I know there will be a time for that again too. I eat well (although as I’m still nursing I regularly stuff down a cake and tell myself it’s to make up the calories), which has helped with the weight side of things. Strength-wise, I’m usually wrangling on 10kg tot and his 15kg sister, so I’m not exactly wasting away on the sofa! But some days I’m just tired. Too tired. Trying to implement a fitness regime around all my other commitments and two small children who still wake in the night, or get sick, or who are just bloody hard work some days, is just too much. It’s not worth killing myself over, really. And I’d rather be here with them right now. I can ride all the cols in the world when they’ve left home. It won’t be many years until they have their own things to do on the weekends and I’ll be free to fill my days how I please. I’ll get my fitness back but without pushing it and for now I’m happy with the holding pattern, getting out for a ride now and again or swinging a bell when I get a quiet 20 minutes, in maintenance mode – or taking them out for short loops with the trailer, which is pretty good exercise when you think between them they weight 25kg! And on other days, days when I just can’t be arsed, it’s okay to sack it all off because it’s virtually impossible to do nothing with two small children to take care of. Where I am now, when I’m just too darned tired, I like that I can cuddle up with them to watch a movie, or bake, or take a very slow walk to the park and push them on the swings. And at nights, while they sleep (when they sleep!) I plot routes and read other blogs about cycling adventures and that is enough for now. There’s a new me in town. I’m a bit wobbly in places, slow on the hills, and have totally lost my bottle on the mountain bike, but it really doesn’t matter.